Kiwi referee Conger overcame character test before World Cup

Matt Conger overcame what he believes was a great character test to get to the football World Cup - a broken foot! The Kiwi referee has just returned from the World Cup in Russia, but he had a scare before the tournament when he picked up a stress fracture in his foot while at a training camp in Italy in April. Conger, 39, spent a couple of weeks in a moon boot, then more time rehabilitating, including time on a​ water treadmill, but recovered to reach his first World Cup. "It was one of those things where it was getting very close and I was thinking is this an eleventh-hour banana skin going to cause me to miss out," he said. He kept FIFA well informed and officials were happy with his progress. He had to pass fitness tests before going to Russia and he felt great during them. "When you get so close to what you're working to achieve it's almost like you're tested. To test the qualities of your character, who you are, what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it." 
Conger got there and refereed Nigeria's 2-0 victory over Iceland in the group stage and was fourth official for England's 4-3 penalty shootout win over Colombia in the round of 16. Conger and his assistant referees Tevita Makasini​ of Tonga and Kiwi Simon Lount​ received good feedback for their work. Conger was also on a shortlist of officials for the last four matches. He was disappointed not to have been appointed one of them, but it was an acknowledgement of how well they had performed. He said it was an "amazing" tournament and atmosphere and wants to go to the 2020 World Cup in Qatar. "It's about recognising the potential and realisation we can do another one. We can perform even better. We want multiple matches.” The World Cup was Conger's seventh FIFA tournament, but he said he couldn't compare it with anything else he'd gone to. "The amount of world interest, the pressure that's there to perform, it really is the pinnacle of sport. With the passion the different countries bring to the game, we're definitely under the microscope 24-7." It is high stakes, but Conger said with the work he and his trio had done before and during the tournament, they knew what they needed to do to put themselves in a position to succeed. Conger's team went to nearly all of the games in Moscow, including watching the final. He did not want to discuss video-replay technology, which was used at a World Cup for the first time to help referees make the right calls. 
Conger is having a short break before heading to Japan to control a game, although he will be back at work as a teacher at Palmerston North's Carncot School on Monday. He will be back into refereeing Australian A-League games later in the year and would like to go to the clubs World Cup in Abu Dhabi. 

Source: Stuff